The 58th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) began on Monday amid tight security at the International Convention Centre in Hitec City. About 2,000 delegates, including heads of global space agencies, are attending the five-day event.
This is the first time that the IAC is being held in Hyderabad. The congress was inaugurated by Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state in the prime minister's office (PMO), in the presence of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman G Madhavan Nair and a host of dignitaries from 45 countries.
Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was scheduled to flag off the space congress he could not do so as he is recuperating from a prostate gland surgery he underwent in New Delhi recently.
With the theme of "Touching Humanity: Space for Improving Quality of Life", the summit will deliberate on various aspects of the global space industry such as space transportation, communication satellites, earth observation, human space flight, exploration of outer space and the planets and space law.
In line with the tradition of heralding the event by showcasing the culture and heritage of the host country, the inaugural ceremony began on a musical note by invoking gods' blessings in a song and dance form - Thayampaka and Panchavadyam by a percussion ensemble.
Thayampaka is a dance form performed at temple festivals to display the artistic skills in step with the sound of five instruments (Panchavadyam) played by an orchestra.
The welcome address by IAC chairman BN Suresh, Director Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, was followed by a 10-minute Kuchipudi recital. Kuchipudi is a classical dance form of the host state Andhra Pradesh.
"The space conference is being held at a time when the global space market has grown to about $190 billion. The event also coincides with the 50th year of Sputnik, the first-ever man-made satellite launched by the erstwhile Soviet Union," Suresh pointed out.
The inaugural addresses by the dignitaries on the dais - Nair, Reddy, Chavan and heads of the international space organizations were interspersed with fusion music by a violin ensemble, a Manipuri Pung Cholam dance, a ballet by schoolchildren, a Kathak recital, beats by a percussion ensemble and a Bhangra dance.
"The conclave is being held to highlight the market potential for Indian firms and open up India's capability to the world. It is important for us to set a higher national agenda and encourage public-private partnerships to avoid being left behind," Nair said.
Besides seven plenary sessions, a special address and a host of technical sessions over the next five days, the congress is also hosting an international exposition, a business conclave and a young professionals programme, involving about 250 students from the world over, including 50 higher secondary and college students from India.
"The three-day business conclave, being held as part of the congress, will be addressed by global leaders from aerospace, defence and satellite communication industries," an official said.
Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams and former president APJ Abdul Kalam will address the congress and interact with students and delegates during the meet.
Sunita will share the experiences of her six-month sojourn in the International Space State (ISS) with the audience, while her colleague, William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for space operations of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), will talk on the key achievements onboard the space outpost.
The ISS will cross a key milestone in 2010 when it completes construction of this unique facility.
For unwinding after a daylong brain-storming sessions, lectures and inter-active events, the delegates are being treated to cultural programmes, gala dinners and networking opportunities during the congress.
Meanwhile, round-the-clock security is being maintained at the venue in Madhapur on the outskirts of the city for the VIPs and delegates.
About 500 policemen have been deployed around the convention centre and the adjacent Hyderabad International Exhibition Centre (HITEX) where the space expo is held.
Vehicles entering the complex are being checked with metal detectors. Delegates and invitees are also being subjected to stringent security checks and their baggage is being put through a scanner at the entrance.
The International Astronautical Federation, the International Academy of Astronautics and the International Institute of Space Law are the co-organisers of the IAC.